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One to Watch: Meghan O'Leary

College experience fueled drive that led to Olympics

Name: Meghan O'Leary
University of Virginia  
Sport: Rowing 

Since starting the sport in 2010, Meghan O'Leary has spent six years determined to make it to Rio. Less than a year after initially picking up an oar, O'Leary was invited to join the U.S. Training Center in Princeton, New Jersey, and earned a spot on the senior national team in 2013. She has quickly mastered the sport and punched her Olympic ticket with first-place finishes in 2013, 2014 and 2015 at the National Selection Regatta.

When to watch:The semifinals of women's double sculls will be aired this morning at 9:10 a.m. EST on NBC.

Why we're cheering: A 6-foot, broad-shouldered natural athlete, O’Leary was a two-sport star at the University of Virginia, spending her first two years on the volleyball team and four seasons on the softball team. She used that time to complete her bachelor’s and master's degrees. Upon graduating in 2008, O'Leary followed what she believed was the next step: Get a job, settle down and move on from athletics. She did this, working at the ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut, for two years until she realized she wasn't ready to let competition go. So she left work to focus on her lifelong goal of becoming an Olympian.

Others to watch today: 
  • Brooke Sweat (beach volleyball): Brooke Sweat graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University in 2008 with a degree in resort and hospitality management. While at Florida Gulf Coast, Sweat played on the school’s first volleyball team, setting the career record for kills and earning Division II All-America honors.
  • Emily Regan (rowing): Emily Regan never touched an oar until she stepped onto the campus of Michigan State University, where she met her future coach, Matt Weise. Regan has publicly recognized Weise as the most influential person in her sporting career. By her senior year in 2010, Regan was named an All-American and the Big Ten Rowing Athlete of the Year.